The thoughts, sewing projects, and fabric oglings of a dedicated sewist.

Basic Sewing Machine Maintenance

Basic Sewing Machine Maintenance

If your machine seems to be jammed or is skipping stitches

  • Un-thread machine and take a look for any loose threads or thread lint in the bobbin casing. If you see anything stuck, try to wiggle it out.  You may need to turn the manual wheel forward and back a bit to get it out.
  • Use the hose attachment on your vacuum cleaner to vacuum out the bobbin casing.  You'd be surprised how much thread lint can build up inside the machine.  I usually do this once a week (but I use my machine a lot).  DO NOT blow into the machine or use compressed air. This can push lint further into the machine and cause problems.
  • Check to make sure that the bobbin thread is wound tightly.  If the thread has become loose, it will tangle.
  • Check your manual to make sure the bobbin is loaded correctly into the bobbin casing. Some machines want the bobbin to turn clockwise when you pull the thread, some want it to turn counter-clockwise.
  • When you use the manual wheel to raise/lower the needle on the machine, make sure that you only turn the wheel towards you (this is counter-intuitive - your instinct will be to turn the wheel back).  If you turn the wheel back, or back and forth, the thread will jam in the bobbin area.
  • Try changing the needle.  Sometimes when needles get older they can get a slight burr that will tangle thread, or become very slightly bent which can cause problems.  If your machine makes a loud noise when you are sewing, it is usually because the needle is out of alignment.
  • You may want to try getting new thread.  Thread degrades over time, so if you have any thread that someone gave you or you bought used, it might just be too old.  Also, some machines are very sensitive to the quality of the thread.  My machine works fine with good old Coats and Clarks, but some machines need a higher quality thread like Gutermann or Mettler.
  • Follow your manual to oil the machine, but be sure to read the instructions or hunt down a Youtube video first.
  • Check that the needle thread tension hasn't been re-set. The manual will probably give you the default or it may be marked on the tension dial.

Once a week:

  • Use a brush to brush out loose threads and lint from the bobbin area and around your sewing space.
  • Use the hose attachment on your vacuum cleaner to suck out lint and loose threads.

Once every 1-2 months:

  • Remove the plate under the presser foot (there should be an obvious screw that holds it in place) and check there for more lint.  Use a brush to loosen and clean out lint.
  • Use the hose attachment on your vacuum clear to suck out lint and loose threads.

If machine isn’t working properly and you’ve tried everything else:

  • Take machine in for a service.  The Hancock Fabrics in North Riverside Shopping Center (next to Jewel) has a wonderful technician named Jerry.  He's only there on Thursdays (usually from 10am to 6 or 7pm), but he is GREAT. And he charges half the price of all the other local places that do this kind of work ($48-$56 as opposed to $100). UPDATE: Jerry has retired and someone else is now repairing machines at Hancock. I have not had any work done by him so I can't speak to his ability. I believe his rates are similar. I believe he is at the store on Wednesdays.
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